Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman

The Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus) is a reptile in the Alligatoridae family of alligators. It is also known as the Musky Caiman and the Smooth-Fronted Caiman.

The Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman looks like a small alligator with a broad head and a U-shaped snout (nose). The adult is dark-brown to black, while juveniles are brown with black bands. It has an upturned lip. The upper jaw extends further than the lower jaw. It has strong scales for protection. It has brown eyes with vertical slits.

Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman

It grows to 120-150 centimetres (47-59 inches) in length. The male is bigger than the female. It is the smallest species of Caimans.

It is found in the Amazon river basin from countries in northern and central South America, such as Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. It prefers wetlands and fast-flowing rivers. It moves on land and in the water, but it needs to come to the surface to breathe air. It cannot breathe underwater.

It is mainly nocturnal, active at night.

The Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman is piscivorous, eating mainly fish. 

The male and female build a nest of soil and plants, nestled in the ground. The female lays 10-25 eggs in the nest, which is covered with soil. After about 90 days, she removes the soil when she hears the sound of the eggs hatching. Her young are about 20 centimetres (8 inches) long at birth.

The average lifespan of the Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman is 25 years.

Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman
Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman

Location of photographs: Parc Zoologique de Paris in Bois de Vincennes, France

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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